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Pariah dogs: 9 ancient and wild dog breeds

By: Jaymi Heimbuch on June 26, 2014, 12:55 p.m.
basenji standing in grass

Photo: Yuri Kravchenko/Shutterstock

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The Basenji is best known for being the "barkless dog" — when it does vocalize, rather than a typical bark, it makes more of a yodeling "barroo" sound. What isn’t quite as well known is that this is an ancient breed of dog, arguably one of the oldest among recognized breeds. It originated in densely forested areas of the Congo Basin in Africa. It shares many characteristics of pariah dogs, which is why it falls in the kennel club categories of Sighhound and Pariah or Spitz and Primitive depending on the club. For instance, like wild dogs it reproduces only once a year, whereas domestic dogs can reproduce several times a year. The ancestors of the modern Basenji lived with humans for thousands of years as a helper in hunting by driving small game into nets or hunting down wounded prey. The fact that they are typically so silent is of course a desired trait for this work. Depictions of dogs with Basenji characteristics (the pricked ears and tightly curled tails) are found in Egyptian tombs, showing just how old this pariah breed is known to be.